Jamie L. Sin was born on August 31, 1928 to parents Juan Sin and Maxima Lachica in New Washington, Aklan. Sin, the 14th of 16 children, 9 of which survived past infancy, left home at a young age to study at St. Vincent Ferrer Archdiocesan Seminary in Jaro, Iloilo to become a priest. At the age of 26, Sin was ordained a priest. For the next three years, Sin served as priest for the Diocese of Capiz from1954-1957, and first rector of St. Pius X Seminary in Roxas City. It was here for the next ten years he served as professor, principal, diocesan consultant, and dean of studies. Following this, Sin held a variety of official positions and worked his way up the ranks of the Church. At the age of 38 he became bishop of Obla, an archbishop of Jaro at age 44, and then archbishop of Manila at age 46. On May 26, 1976, Pope Paul VI made Sin a cardinal.
From 1974-1986 under the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, Cardinal Sin became an increasingly vocal critic of the Marcos regime’s abuses and violations of human rights. Initially, Cardinal Sin engaged in what he called “critical collaboration” with the Marcos regime. The devoutly Catholic Sin at first pledged to help Marcos reining in nuns and priests within the clergy supporting Marxist rebels due to their Marxist ways of preaching the Gospel. In addition, Cardinal Sin attended social events of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, and presided over masses requested by the First Family out of his duty to the faith. However, these actions were in conjunction with the Cardinal’s increasing criticism of Marcos’ regime policies such as violating human rights, torturing and abusing citizens and dissidents, and his neglect of the poor. These criticisms were often put into the form of thinly veiled jokes made against the regime’s policies and moral character, especially Imelda’s wasteful extravagance. Sin’s humor was renowned for its slyness, as well as its criticism of Marcos.
Cardinal Sin’s criticism of Marcos and his regime became explicit and outspoken after the assassination of Senator Ninoy Aquino upon Aquino’s arrival in Manila after self-imposed exile in the U.S. Cardinal Sin even went on to publicly endorse Aquino’s widow, Corazon Aquino, in her candidacy for president against Marcos. The Cardinal’s opposition to the Marcos regime, and his powerful influence over state affairs became apparent when two of Marcos’ main supporters, Chief of Staff Fidel Ramos, and Minister of Defense Juan Ponce Enrile rebelled against Marcos. Answering for requests of protection and safety by Ramos and Enrile, Cardinal Sin went on the airwaves and called upon millions of Filipinos to surround the camp where Enrile, Ramos, and their men were occupying to provide a protective barricade of human bodies to stop Marcos’ men from killing them. Faced with millions of ordinary Filipinos against them, as well as iconic images of priests and nuns kneeling in prayer in front of tanks, Marcos realized his situation was futile and decided to flee from the Philippines.
After the exile of Ferdinand Marcos and his family from the Philippines, Cardinal Sin played a prominent role in Philippine politics by leading another People Power revolt against President Joseph Estrada in 2001. In addition, Sin’s power in the Church and influence over the people often butted heads against policies of the government such as President Fidel Ramos’ planned policy for birth control in the country, which the devoutly Catholic Sin denounced. On June 21, 2005 at the age of 76, Cardinal Jamie Sin died due to a longstanding battle against cancer.
Cardinal Sin is significant in Philippine history not only for being an instrumental figurehead in the People Power revolt that deposed the Marcos dictatorship, but also for representing the power the Catholic church had in deciding Philippine politics for years to come. Sin’s position and influence over the people showcased the power of the clergy and Sin’s unique role as kingmaker in politics. Despite the positivity Sin and the Church had in deposing Marcos, critics remark that Sin represents the increasing meddling in politics the Church has shown since the People Power revolt in 1986. However, regardless of these arguments, the platform of morality Cardinal Sin stood upon in justifying the presence of God in politics has been a phenomenon that exists to this day.
– Lex Duey